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Member Highlight: Yoshiaki Takahashi

1. First, list your current professional title. Second, describe your background, experience, and research as it relates to Quality-of-life studies. 

I am a senior research fellow at Nakasone Peace Institute in Tokyo, Japan. The Institute was founded in 1988 by former Japanese Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone for research and study, international exchange, and other activities conducive to examining critical issues facing the world and Japan. The Institute pursues an ambitious research program that covers the fields of international politics, economics, security, energy, and the environment.

From 2009 to 2011, I was the head of the happiness research unit in the Economic and Social Research Institute under the Cabinet Office of Japan and contributed to development of Japan's National Well-being Indicators. They were released in December 2011. Happiness in the UK and Bhutan is treated as one pillar in the well-being indicators. On the other hand, a different philosophy is applied to the Japanese effort because happiness was a core policy goal and other indicators would contribute to increase happiness.

I was also an advisory board member when the OECD developed the guidelines on measuring subjective well-being and the head of an advisory team for Gross National Happiness Survey 2015 conducted by the Centre for Bhutan Studies and GNH Research (CBS). As you know, Bhutan is a country whose public policy goal under their constitution is to increase the level of Bhutanese happiness. The CBS published its final report at the beginning of 2017.

Responding to the priority work proposed by the OECD guidelines, my current research subject is to identify culturally different meanings of happiness. In particular, I try to develop a methodology of how we can quantify cultural differences between countries by using a new concept of “ideal happiness.” To date our international team has conducted quantitative and qualitative surveys in Bhutan, Costa Rica, India, the Netherlands, Philippines, Thailand, and Japan. For the Nippon Foundation since 2016 I have also been exploring why Japanese adolescents and youths commit suicide at such a high rate, evidence of ultimate unhappiness.

I received MSc in Public Policy from University College London, MSc in International Financial Markets from the University of Southampton, and PhD in International Studies from Waseda University.

2.  What initially attracted you to the field of quality-of-life studies?

I started my career as an economist in the Economic Planning Agency in the Japanese Government. I was involved in making economic policies such as an economic stimulus program, inward foreign investment promotion program and deregulation plan. At that time, I relied heavily on standard economics, meaning that consumers are assumed to be smart and rational. However, when I was involved in making consumer policies, I needed to focus more on individual consumer behaviors to decrease consumer detriments. Bad businesses utilized consumer misbehaviors to cheat them. Quality of life was a keyword for consumer policy. That was a new insight for me.

After that, I was promoted to Director of Research, Department of Quality of Life, Cabinet Office. I became interested in happiness studies because happiness would be a new policy goal in Japan. As one policy output, we published the White Paper on the Quality of Life in 2008 to analyze happiness in Japan and proposed that the Japanese government should take care of people’s happiness as a policy goal. This led to development of national well-being indicators from 2009.

3. What are some areas of quality-of-life studies you feel are lacking attention? Any advice for future QoL researchers?

Happiness pertaining to migration is now a very important area to explore because anti-immigrant sentiment is growing around the world. The World Happiness Report 2018 dealt with this issue. However, I felt that study of happiness in migration within a country is less developed. For instance, we don’t have enough evidence to assess whether the frequency of contact between native and migrant population has an effect on happiness of the native population. The Japanese government opened the labor market to unskilled workers around the world in April 2019. Therefore, any evidence on interaction between the native and migrant population is useful for Japanese to establish good relationship with migrants.

4. How long have you been a member of ISQOLS? Why did you choose to be a member of ISQOLS? How has your involvement in ISQOLS impacted your career/research/advancement in your knowledge of QoL studies?

A meeting at Bangkok, Thailand in 2010 was the first time for me to attend the ISQOLS conference. I made a presentation about a Japanese government initiative for well-being indicators. After that, I became a member of ISQOLS and have attended most of the conferences. The main reason that I joined ISQOLS was to get wider range of knowledge about QoL studies and to develop new research ideas that I should explore. Moreover, ISQOLS impacted much my research career including new collaboration and networking. In fact, many of our international team members and collaborators are also members of ISQOLS.

5. Feel free to include any other important comments or things you'd like to share with the ISQOLS community.

I was recently elected as a member of the Board of Directors and Co-Vice Presidents of Publicity and Membership (2019-2020). I am very honored to be able to work for the ISQOLS community.

In addition, as mentioned above, I am currently conducting international comparative research to test the validity of ideal happiness around the world. If any members are interested in a possible collaboration in the research, we welcome your contact.

Yoshiaki Takahashi can be contacted at :ytaka2001@hotmail.co.jp


References

The Centre for Bhutan Studies and GNH Research. (2017). A Compass Towards a Just and Harmonious Society: 2015 GNH Survey Report. https://www.grossnationalhappiness.com/2015-gnh-survey-report/

The Commission on Measuring Well-being, Japan. (2011). Measuring National Well-Being -Proposed Well-being Indicators-. https://www5.cao.go.jp/keizai2/koufukudo/pdf/koufukudosian_english.pdf

The Nippon Foundation. Suicide Prevention Project.

https://www.nippon-foundation.or.jp/en/what/projects/suicide_measures

Yoshiaki Takahashi

Nakasone Peace Institute

30 Mori Bldg. 6F, 3-2-2 Toranomon, Minato, Tokyo 1050001 Japan

http://www.iips.org/en/index.html


The International Society for Quality-of-Life Studies (ISQOLS)

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